IAAF logo (IAAF.org) © Copyright
Iaaf News Monaco

Statistician Lionel Peter passes away after long illness

The IAAF is deeply saddened to receive the news of the passing of renowned Athletics statistician and historian Lionel Peters, and offers its sincerest sympathy and condolences to his family and friends.

Here follows a tribute from his close friend and ATFS colleague Mel Watman

It is with deep regret that I report the death on July 18, at St Luke's Hospice in Harrow, of Lionel Peters at the age of 76. He had been a close friend for over 30 years and it was painful to observe his deterioration in recent months. All who knew Lionel, that gentle giant, will join in offering their condolences to Sigrid (happily they were able to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary last September while Lionel was still in reasonable health) and their son Neil. His suffering is now over and all are welcome to attend the funeral, which will be held on Tuesday, July 30 (1 pm) at the Hendon Cemetery, Holders Hill Road, London NW7 1NB, with a reception later at the Hendon Hall Hotel.

Lionel, who was born in Southend-on-Sea, Essex on 15 May 1937, was a chartered accountant by profession and his wide range of interests included supporting Arsenal FC, chess, theatre, cinema, opera and jazz as well as having a prodigious memory for the timeless lyrics of Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter etc. Athletics was what brought us together in the 1980s, the decade during which he became a member of the ATFS (Association of Track & Field Statisticians) and a member of the NUTS Executive Committee.

Frustrated by the paucity of junior results in athletics magazines and newspapers, he sought to correct that deficiency by publishing World Junior Athletics News in printed form from January 1994, just a few months after Athletics International was launched by Peter Matthews and myself. Providing hugely detailed results, lists and other statistics relating to the junior age groups worldwide, the newsletter quickly attracted a loyal following and in January 1999 he supplemented that service with a dedicated website. However, just two months later Lionel suffered a calamitous fall in Belfast while covering the World Junior Cross Country Championships. He severely injured a leg and during an operation the following week he suffered two heart attacks and very nearly died, saved only by Sigrid insisting on a particular treatment. In effect he was given a 14-year reprieve but his health never fully recovered and he scaled down his work commitments. WJAN was suspended for six months before reappearing with two new editors and ceased publication in September 2001 although the website continued.

Most of the sport's recent and current big names featured in WJAN during the athletes' formative years. For example, the May 2001 issue carried the first mention of one Usain Bolt, finishing second in the Jamaican High Schools Championships U18 200m in 22.04 and second also in the U17 200m and 400m at the CARIFTA Games in Barbados in 21.81 and 48.28. The final edition of the newsletter later that summer featured complete results of the 2nd IAAF World Youth Championships in Debrecen, Hungary where Bolt was fifth in his 200m semi in a pb of 21.73 and Allyson Felix won the 100m and Valerie Adams the shot. Lionel also made an invaluable contribution to the sport's documentation of statistics and historic material with the compilation and publication of numerous annuals and other booklets during a 20-year period from the mid-1980s. As a friend and colleague he will be sadly missed.

Mel Watman